Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Just Another Purple Monday AKA C'mon Bangles, Let's Go Make Some Chart Noise

So after one impressive, if mostly under-the-radar, album, and one random Leonard Nimoy video, the Bangles began attracting some ... unusual fans. One of those unusual fans also happened to be unusually powerful. This particular fan ... Hmmm. How can I describe him? Let's just say he wore lacy underwear, he liked purple a little too much, and he wrote about thirty-five songs per day.

When you sit back in your easy chair with a cherry Slurpee and think about music that Prince would be into, you probably wouldn't think of the Bangles. But you probably didn't think he'd change his name to a giant symbol either. From an A/V Club interview with Susanna Hoffs:
It was all very mysterious. I got a call … We were working with Peggy and David Leonard, a husband-and-wife engineer team who had done a lot of stuff with Prince in Minneapolis, and then I guess everybody came west, and they were working in studios in L.A. ... Anyway, somehow word got to me to go to Sunset Sound and pick up the cassette from Prince. It was the old days of cassettes, you know. There were two songs on it, and one of them was “Manic Monday.” I didn’t actually see Prince that day, because… I don’t know, either he wasn’t there or he just wasn’t coming out of the studio or something. [Laughs.] But I just got the tape and played it on the way back to the studio where The Bangles were, and we immediately thought that “Manic Monday” was… [Hesitates.] I’ve got to look for that tape, ’cause there was another song on it, and… I have it somewhere—thank God I didn’t throw it out!—but I just haven’t had a chance to go through my old box of cassette tapes. I should probably do it soon, because that tape’s going to start degrading! [Laughs.] But it was cool. The title was really great. It just reminded me of “Manic Depression,” the Hendrix song, and had kind of a psychedelic thing. And then it had these great harmonies, and I don’t know, there were a lot of things about it where I just thought, “This is a really good fit for The Bangles."
And Susanna's instincts ... were correct. Aside from Hendrix, there's also a definite hint of the Mamas & the Papas' "Monday, Monday," which would've made it an even more obvious fit. However, I don't believe it's accurate to say that Prince wrote the song for the Bangles (originally it was intended for Apollonia 6), but he was certainly making his presence known one way or another. According to various sources, right around 1985, either Prince became a little infatuated with the whole Paisley Underground scene (naming his new label Paisley Park Records, building a new complex called Paisley Park Studios, and releasing the psychedelically-tinged Around the World in a Day, the one with "Raspberry Beret" on it), or he was trying to sleep with Susanna Hoffs; no one's quite sure, least of all Susanna. From an MTV Hive interview:
I heard that he wrote “Manic Monday” for the Bangles because he had a crush on you. Is that true?

I would never be able to speak for him in any way, so it’s all conjecture. I know he liked the band, and he invited us on many occasions to jam with him in the studio, just for fun. It was a big thing having Prince’s endorsement. But I couldn’t speak for him in terms of what the motivation was.

If “Manic Monday” was Prince’s way of trying to woo you, he could’ve done better.

Really? I thought it was a great song.

Oh, it was. But when you rhyme “Sunday” with “Funday,” that’s some lazy seduction.

Well yeah, but there’s a lot of stuff in the song that’s suggestive. “Let’s go make some noise” and all that. So who knows? I haven’t talked to Prince in a very long time. Not since the ’80s. I couldn’t begin to guess at what he was thinking.
Nor could anyone else. In fact, if I ever meet the man who can tell me what Prince is thinking, I'll give him a million dollars. The man, I mean, not Prince. Prince is rich enough as he is. Anyhow, I suspect the lustful gazes of Mr. Rogers Nelson were both welcome and unwelcome, but as far as I know, no banging of the Bangle ultimately occurred. Nor did he even write the song as "Prince," instead using the pseudonym "Christopher." What was wrong with this guy? He couldn't even give his pseudonym a last name? If mystery was his game, it was all for naught, since everybody figured out it was Prince, probably because the verse melody sounds exactly like "1999" ("I was dreaming when I wrote this/Forgive me if I go astray"), but it's hard to imagine his pinched, fluttery voice singing this instead of Susanna's summery coo. As another Bangle says, "It was a Banglefication of a Prince arrangement. He had a demo, that was very specifically him. It was a good song, but we didn't record it like 'This is our first hit single! Oh my God! I can feel it in my veins!' "
Six o'clock already
I was just in the middle of a dream
I was kissin' Valentino
By a crystal blue Italian stream
But I can't be late
'Cause then I guess I just won't get paid
These are the days
When you wish your bed was already made

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
'Cause that's my funday
My I don't have to runday
It's just another manic Monday

Have to catch an early train
Got to be to work by nine
And if I had an aeroplane
I still couldn't make it on time
'Cause it takes me so long
Just to figure out what I'm gonna wear
Blame it on the train
But the boss is already there

All of the nights
Why did my lover have to pick last night
To get down
Doesn't it matter
That I have to feed the both of us
Employment's down
He tells me in his bedroom voice
C'mon honey, let's go make some noise
Time it goes so fast
When you're having fun
Of course, this being a Prince song, there has to be a section about the bone-rattlingly awesome sex the singer's been having, but these days Susanna has stopped singing "C'mon honey, let's go make some noise" altogether, on the grounds that it's "a corny line" and "something I'd never say." Oh, but Prince sure would've said it. He probably just said it last night.

As for the Bangles' whole "60s garage rock/sunshine pop" sound: there's maybe a teenie weenie sliver of it still present, perhaps in that synthesized harpsichord at the start, and the mildly folkie harmonies, but it was right about here where the Bangles kind of gave up and just apathetically agreed to sound like a slick '80s Top 40 band. Yeah, they're singing harmonies, but can you even tell it's them? Biggest production mistake: the decision to use an imitation string section on the chorus. Even Prince used a real string section on "Raspberry Beret."

And the video looks just like a thousand other videos, although, with its cross-cutting between sepia-tinted and black & white footage, occasional usage of the fish-eye lens, some dizzying time-lapse photography, and the girls' surprisingly bohemian wardrobe, it kind of anticipates an early '90s video. So it's still a dated video, it's just six or seven years ahead of time in it's "dated-ness"! Just swap out the Bangles with the Spin Doctors, but keep the same exact footage, and who could tell the difference?

In the end, while it's not my favorite Bangles single, I think it still deserved to be the band's first real mega-hit; it peaked at #2 in the US, UK, and Canada, ironically blocked from the US #1 spot by ... Prince's "Kiss". But the true legacy of "Manic Monday," which might have been Prince's secret agenda all along, is that the Bangles quickly became ... The Susanna Hoffs Show. The other three girls were really about to wish it was Sunday.

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